The last time Mike DeBlasi ran for the Keizer City Council, detractors used his relatively short time as a Keizer resident as a straw man to oppose his candidacy.
DeBlasi might have only lived in Keizer since 2012, but he joined the Keizer Planning Commission the following year and has remained an active volunteer in city advisory groups ever since. He currently serves as chair of the Traffic Safety, Bikeways and Pedestrian Committee.
“Keizer is a completely different town than what it was 20 years ago. A lot of the people who live in Keizer now are not from here,” DeBlasi said. “I’ve lived in other places and I’ve seen cities make decisions that put them on a good path and others times when they’ve made mistakes, we can learn from both.”
DeBlasi will try to unseat Councilor Laura Reid who is running for re-election to Position 1.
As an advisor to the city council through commissions and committees, DeBlasi focuses on how small details impact the residents and livability of the city. As a planning commissioner, he advocated for changes that created the space for the new development near Sonic Drive-In on River Road that will combine commercial and residential components.
“I will admit I’m surprised that it happened as quickly as it did, but I hope that the community accepts it and that we use it as a way to engage commercial developers and show them that Keizer is open to more urban looks as we try to fill in the missing middle,” he said. The “missing middle” is used to describe the gap between lower income and more expensive housing options, a space where more and more cities are coming up short.
DeBlasi is also an advocate for the city council adopting an inclusivity resolution as a first step, but that the work that comes after such a resolution includes making sure all residents have safe, affordable housing within reach.
On economic development, DeBlasi would like to see the city engage more with the Oregon Legislature on issues that could bolster Keizer’s prospects and back up its words with actions.
“I’ve heard the councilors talk about their support for local businesses, but then In-N-Out was approved and that undercuts a local business like Nancy’s Burgers,” DeBlasi said. “A ton of people came and now they will be opening another one up north. They didn’t see us as a community, they saw us as a revenue stream.”
While the council approves business developments, it can only reject them when they fail to meet specific standards relating to infrastructure, design and traffic impacts. It does not have a role in determining which brands or chains occupy a space.
On the traffic safety committee, DeBlasi advocates for adding more traffic-calming features – such as narrower lanes, greater use of trees next to streets and bulbing out curbs – whenever a Keizer street undergoes a makeover. Eventually, he would like to see the city adopt alternative standards that cater to a wider array of transportation options and safety plans to support them.
While he’s seen some victories in the efforts he champions, he’s not been on the winning side in every decision and hopes to bring that understanding to the council.
“Some of the decision making is accepting the good instead of the perfect. And some of it is accepting defeats when they happen. But, being on these committees, I’ve gotten to meet people who have issues with the city that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise,” he said.
As for the choice to run against a sitting councilor, DeBlasi said he has nothing against Reid.
“She’s just of a mindset with all the other counselors we already have,” he said.
DeBlasi lives in Keizer with his wife, Nicole, and children Miles and Ella.
Find out more about the candidate at his website: www.deblasi4abetterkeizer.com.